Here’s a story for ya.
I was on my way to Kauai and on the plane next to me was a lady. She is an engineer. It came up that my husband, Mark, is an anesthesiology resident. That very much impressed her as all her kids are also in the medical field.
She asked me what I did. I said boldly, "I'm an artist!". I usually say graphic designer as it's easier to digest for people and to be honest...It has always felt more “serious” to me. But I decided to say what I feel I TRULY am.
She says, “Oh. So he gets to work really hard and you just get to *hand flip* have fun?”
Oh, I so wish I had a better response. I was just taken extremely off guard. I felt ashamed so I reverted back to what I always say when I want to sound “accomplished” or to be taken more seriously.
“Oh..erm...well...I am also a graphic designer! That’s my real job.”
“OH” she says, “That’s nice. My cousin does that - brochures and pamphlets and those sorts of things?”
Yes. Sure. Pamphlets and things…
Clearly ANYTHING in the creative field was deemed less then and therefore, only for slackers.
After she went back to her crossword and I my book, I reflected on everything that just happened.
Hey world. We have got to stop thinking that when someone says they are an artist they are doing it in the name of FUN. I do not do art for FUN. It is my job, calling and vocation. Do I sometimes have fun in my job? Yes! And I hope to God you do too at times in your job.
I am pursuing this work because I believe my art matters to the world. It is a vehicle for me to visually communicate my deepest self with the connections I see in the world around me. To offer a space for vulnerability, to process grief, to challenge societal norms and structures and to connect with my creator.
We need art…so we need artists.
Please do not demean this field of work because it doesn’t fit into the typical structure of what you think is a “good” or “accomplished” job.
Please do not think artists do this work because we want to goof off and pursue the easy life.
Please do not worry about your artist friends and loved ones because they don’t make as much money as you. Trust me, we are the most resourceful types on the planet. We figure it out. This is hard work. It is soul work. And it is GOOD work.
I am so lucky to be at a place in my career where I am so sure of what I’m doing. I am so grateful to have a spouse, a family, and friends who are 150% in support of me. Many people do not have that kind of support. We need to all do a better job of valuing artists and supporting the arts in our communities. It is truly what makes the world more vibrant, more colorful, and a more human, spiritual place to live.
Now back to my new friend... She was sitting in the window seat, my coveted seat where I take all my aerial photos for my work, and she didn’t open the window one time. It was in that flight over that I was reminded yet again of the importance of what I do. As an artist and within my work specifically, I get to open those eyes of those who wish to not see how that window. I get to encourage people to look down at the world below them and around them as a beautiful work of art. As a necessary part of our human flourishing. Because as we all know to be true:
“The EARTH without ART is just EH.”
So let’s get to it, artists. Take yourself and your work seriously. It matters.
And lest we forget…we are in this together so let’s keep building each other up, not by competition but collaboration.